Will water reach fields?
27/05/2005, Julia Sinitsyna
To resolve the problem of the lack of irrigation water in the agricultural areas specialists recommend to peasants to keep relying on the government, but to take care for themselves.
The agricultural season is at its height in the South Kazakhstani region - fields have been desalinised, tilled, and sowed.
The main thing for a peasant now is to provide stable irrigation and the lack of water becomes the main problem again.
The main source of water for the reclamation works of South Kazakhstani peasants is Shardara reservoir and basins of Arys and Bugun rivers.
In early spring there were concerns related with the unstable political situation in Kyrgyzstan - peasants were worried that there would be interruptions in the supply of water from the Kyrgyz mountain rivers to Shardara.
However specialists were saying that whoever would become a new authority in the neighbouring republic, there would not be any changes in the water supply regime. That is, almost certainly the traditional problems will remain, but they will not aggravate.
When they spoke about traditional problems they meant seasonal reductions of the water supply from Naryn hydrosystem, related with the reduction of power supply by Kyrgyz hydropower stations and the increase of diversion flows for agricultural needs in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. Then only remains of the water supply from Naryn were reaching Kazakhstan, the last chain in the hydrosystem Naryn-SyrDarya,.
However, specialists believe that these problems can be resolved only at the governmental level. Peasants should take this modified popular saying as a rule: keep relying on the government, but take care for yourselves. And in this aspect specialists have quite a few complaints about the peasants themselves - even the scarce volume of water, coming into South Kazakhstan region, in the majority of cases is used by the peasants in an extremely irrational manner.
One of reasons for this is seen by specialists from "Yuzhvodkhoz" water management venture and the agriculture department of South Kazakhstani region in the outdated (morally rather than technically) system of agricultural irrigation, remaining since the Soviet times.
The scheme of amelioration of hungry steppes is as follows - irrigation water is delivered from natural rivers and reservoirs with the help of artificial channels and aqueducts. At the same time, the whole ameliorated area of the steppe must be provided by water-engines for the drainage of subterranean waters. Subterranean waters are present nearly everywhere in the hungry steppe. The problem is that this water is, as a rule, so salty that it is unreasonable to use it for the irrigation (although in a number of cases to reduce costs even in the Soviet times the irrigation with drainage water was practised.)
If the salty subterranean waters are not drained, then during the irrigation both the subterranean and irrigation waters will be intermingled. As a result, the subterranean waters will come up to the surface, bringing salt instead of water into the soil.
Actually, the subterranean waters must be drained from out of the soil and then discharged into special reservoirs by special aqueducts. (Let us note that in order to save money, the salty waters were discharged in Soviet times… back to Syr Darya. As a result the Aral Sea became a sedimentation pool for the salty waters.)
The irrigation system constructed in the Soviet times still worked with all its drawbacks. However, in the 90-s the system remained without control and became subject to destruction if not to direct looting.
Thus, in particular, from one thousand vertical drainage wells only a few continued to function. And the absence of a single owner and dissociation of peasants tripled the problem.
Now there are attempts to build up a new drainage system in Makhtaaral district and millions of tenge have been spent by the national budget for this. Let us note that it is more interesting and profitable for the contractors to drill new drainage wells, than to revise and restore the old system.
The irrigation channels and aqueducts have been dismantled, silted or simply dried out. Thus, in Sairam district the whole number of artificial channels found themselves "off side" because the course of the riverbeds feeding them was changed.
And even if these facilities are revived by means of connecting them to the rivers, they often represent dangers because of a lack of repair, threatening to flood the villages and fields on their banks.
Without restoring the entire system it is impossible to organise rational irrigation of agricultural lands. However new irrigation facilities must be restored or equipped by those directly interested in it - peasant farms. These in their turn are waiting for the problem to be resolved by the government.
This year around 500 million tenge will be spent for the construction of channels and irrigation facilities.
But it is planned to build up only main, basic routes, from which the peasants themselves must distribute the water.
In the same Makhtaaral, Saryagash, Sairam, and other districts, where there already are such channels, this distribution is lacking - peasants, as a rule, are satisfied with the construction of small aryks and gutters, which will be silted already by the next season, and where half of the water is lost evaporating or absorbed by the Earth.